A hundred years ago, the kids that we would now describe as geeks and nerds had few guarantees that things would be great once they got out of high school. There might have been some teasing and jokes about whether such people would really do better than the jocks and other stereotypically popular kids. These days, though, provided a nerd is really into math or computers, there’s a decent chance that she can turn that aptitude into a way to get ahead very quickly. Math and science geeks get ahead.
But English geeks are in similar straights these days. I can think of three jokes where the punchline involves an English major asking someone if they’d like fries with their order.
The Rise of the English Majors
Technology is a money maker, without a doubt. Over the past couple of decades, it’s been made incredibly clear that anyone who can figure out even a little beyond the knowledge of the average person when it comes to technology can find a way to get ahead. There can be a lot of money in being a geek.
We’re already starting to see those opportunities extend to writers and and the folks that geek out about language. Being able to write decently can be translated into a high-priced career as an SEO writer. The number of opportunities to create online content have absolutely boomed.
Those opportunities can’t help but grow. Every time I hear about a new start up, I smile: someone plans to collect information about local restaurants and rank them? She’ll need a writer to put together descriptions of each eatery. Someone wants to launch a new online ad network? She’ll need people to write content to provide a home to all those ads. Someone builds a new social networking site? She might not hire her own writers, but every company that wants to use that site to connect with buyers will hire several.
Content Will Be the Future of Startups
While there are incredible opportunities for writers as it is, a lot of the more successful startups of the past decade have essentially provided infrastructure for doing cool things. The next great wave of startups, of successful businesses in general, are going to focus on content. Take a look at Pottermore — the technology involved is absolutely secondary to the fact that the site is providing additional content from the world of Harry Potter.
The mechanics of how to sell content are in flux right now (the moans coming from most newspaper companies can certainly serve as proof), but that just means that there are opportunities. A couple of bright boys and girls are going to come along and, using a background in writing and getting people to read their stuff, are going to start some phenomenal businesses.
Image by Flickr user CCAC North Library